That caught your attention, didn’t it!
Thursday morning on 560 ESPN, I heard Jim Armstrong say that since January 6, Carmelo has had 6 games where he made the last second, game-winning shot. He went on to say that LeBron James has not hit a single game-winner like that in his whole NBA career. (Note: A little internet research shows that he had hit one game winner – on Feb 6, 2006.)
Do you remember when Carmelo was drafted? At the time, I felt like the Nuggets were fortunate to get the third pick. Even though it seemed like once again, we had bad luck in the lottery. LeBron James, the high school boy wonder, was obviously going to be the first pick. Serbian-born Darko Milicic was supposed to be this incredible talent who deserved to go second. That left the Nuggets stuck with Carmelo Anthony. What a situation to be stuck withâ€”all Carmelo had ever done was carry his team to the NCAA championship. (I ask you, what is that compared to winning the high school state championship? Whatâ€™s that compared to a spot on the All-Serbian team?)
So, instead of getting to pick a kid who had never even faced college-level talent or a European kid who was all potential and hype that no one had ever seen, we had to settle for a player who was such a stud that he was the MVP of the NCAA tournament as a freshman. Tough luck, huh?
When the Nuggets drafted Carmelo, I thought that we had gotten lucky. Carmelo was a proven winner. A successful leader who had played every position for Syracuse in the tournament but centerâ€”how like Magic Johnson that seemed. He raised his game and bagged the NCAA titleâ€”how like Michael Jordan that seemed. To me that was worth more than all the hype about potential that was being dished about Darko and LeBron both.
Since the draft, Carmelo has lived in LeBronâ€™s shadow. LeBron is a marvelously talented basketball player, a floor-leader, a great scorer, a true all-star. But is he a winner? Can he take a team to a championship? Carmelo can. Does LeBron have the ice in his veins that is necessary to sink the game winning shot? Carmelo does.
Perhaps this is the season in which Carmelo will emerge from LeBronâ€™s shadow.
After a couple of years in the league, Carmelo is adjusting. Heâ€™s shaking off some of the problems that come with fame, money, and the immaturity inherent in being 20-years old. He is adjusting to playing at the NBA level, and we are starting to see glimpses of greatness.
The playoffs this summer will be Carmeloâ€™s opportunity to shine. If the team can do some real damage, like reaching the Western finals, basketball fans will have to give the kid his due.
Of course there is one true way to shake off all doubtersâ€”for Carmelo Anthony to bring a championship to Denver. Is that going to happen this year? I seriously doubt it. But for the first time in a long time, Nuggets fans can dream that a great player is going to lead the team to the promised land. Because that is what a great player, a player better than LeBron James, will do.